Seventeen people gathered outside the Spargo Creek Hotel on the edge of Wombat Forest. We met our leaders, Gayle and Murray from Wombat Forestcare. After our footwear was disinfected, so as not to carry disease into the forest, we set off into the forest.
Our first stop was at a patch of Wombat Leafless Bossiaea Bossiaea vombata. The plant was first found by staff from the Herbarium. When Wombat Forestcare began searching they found a different clump and have since found a total of 7 populations. The patch we looked at was about 8 metres square with new plants suckering on the edge – the whole clump may genetically be one plant. The plants were about 1 metre high and leafless – photosynthesis is carried out by flattened stems known as cladodes. Flowers develop along the edges of the cladodes; different clumps may have different coloured flowers ranging through white, yellow and orange. The plants flower and set seed but the seed produced has very low viability. The clump we saw had two flowers just developing from the buds. All the clumps so far found are in areas with similar overstorey of mixed species including Candlebark, Messmate and peppermint. The Wombat Leafless Bossiea may have originally occurred on the fertile volcanic soils which have be extensivelly developed for agriculture.
Other plants seen nearby were Gorse Bitter-pea* Daviesia ulicifolia, Hop Wattle Acacia stricta, Narrow-leaf Wattle A mucronata, Wombat Bush-pea Pultenea reflexifolia (another endemic plant), Austral Indigo Indigofera australia, and Common Heath* Epacaris impressa (* denotes flowering). On a short walk through the bush we found a variety of fungi including Rusella sp, Coral Fungus, Yellow Jelly, Bracket, Prettymouth and Ghost Fungus. The Prettymouth, probably Common Prettymouth Calostoma fuscum, is a stalked puffball which puffed out a cloud of white spores when tapped.
Near the Werribee River we looked at an area of Herb-rich Foothill Forest. The understorey was dominated by Poa, Spiny Lomandra Lomandra longifolia. Victorian Christmas Bush Prostanthera lasianthos, Twining Glycine Glycine clandestina and Bushman’s Bootlace Pimelea axiflora. In this area 30 x 1 hectare plots (250 x 40 metres) have been set up and surveyed for 6 years by Wombat Forestcare and Authur Rylah Insitute staff. The most significant find during spotlight surveys has been the Greater Glider. This glider can glide up to 100 metres, feeds on eucalypt leaves and lives in tree hollows.
Wombat Forestcare is using several motion-sensing cameras in various areas of the Wombat. Brush-tailed Phascogales have recently been found in the southern section of the forest. Day time photographs have recorded the ground-foraging Spotted Quail-thrush in an area of long unburnt forest.
After lunch alongside Farm Road we walked along a drainage to the western edge of the forest.
Several clumps of Bossiaea vombata were spread over an area of about 50m on the edge of the forest. It is speculated that these may be one plant. None of the clumps set seed. Other plants in this area were Screw Fern Lindsaea linearis, Prickfoot Eryngium vesiculosum, Slender Dodder-laurel Cassytha glabella and Wiry Bossiaea Bossiaea cordigera. We observed several patches where wild pigs had rooted up the earth and vegetation.
Returning to the cars Gayle showed photos of Dwarf Silver Wattle Acacia nano-dealbata. This is a smaller tree than A. dealbata with more closely packed leaflets and slightly greener in colour. We thanked Gayle and headed homewards.
On the return journey to Ballarat we stopped at the Moorabool Reservoir to inspect the CHW house which will be the venue for FNCB 60th birthday celebration in November. In the grounds of the reservoir we saw more birds than seen during the rest of the day. Crimson Rosella, Grey Fantail, New Holland Honeyeaters and White-browed Scrubwren were flitting around the trees and shrubs. On the concrete spillway Yellow-rumped Thornbill were feeding on low vegetation and a female Flame Robin perched on surrounding vantage points.